Is ‘Rob The Mechanic’ the smartest person on TikTok? | David Booth

Robert Zeromski shows off some otherworldly diagnostic skills in the most interesting auto-repair video on the Internet

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To expect the unexpected shows a thoroughly modern intellect.

Oscar Wilde

I don’t know if Robert Zeromski is the smartest man on TikTok. I am not even sure his “Why Do We Charge to Diagnose Vehicles” video is the most compelling argument ever made that auto mechanics deserve a whole heckuva lot more respect than they get. However, the only reason I don’t know whether either of those two statements are factual is simply because I have neither seen — nor am I willing to watch — every single video on TikTok.

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In other words, as much as I’d like to, I can’t make any “greatest of all time” boast because I won’t — or, more accurately, can’t — watch every video on Donald Trump’s least-favourite social-media channel.

What I can say with certainty, however, is that Zeromski’s escapades rooting out an intermittent electrical fault on a problematic pickup was the most impressive automotive detective work I’ve seen, and, in my mind, that at least makes him the smartest mechanic on the app. I have been blessed with meeting some real smartnicks in my 41 years of auto journalism — which includes four years spent editing a magazine with the sole purpose of teaching auto techs how to more efficiently repair their charges — but Rob The Mechanic’s six-minute-25-second TikTok is the most impressive piece of automotive sleuthing I have ever witnessed.

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Even if you’re not interested in cars, the video is captivating. For one thing, Zeromski really is the Sherlock Holmes of electronic control modules, his discerning of clues no less impressive than the “world’s greatest detective.” For another, I’m pretty sure House, M.D. kept millions of us in thrall despite not knowing — or wanting to know — what nephrology was or might be. In other words, you don’t need to know a spark plug from a Steering Control Module to understand that something special is going on as he weaves front control module to control module.

And, like my favourite Amazon Prime series — Bosch — Zeromski’s is not a one-and-done mystery; the surprises keep coming right until the end of the six-minute clip.

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The Problem

That’s because Zeromski takes on the most convoluted case of fraught electronics I have ever seen. A 2019 Ram 1500 5.7L Hemi is crapping out every 33 miles (53 km). Not every 33 minutes — time being typically how intermittent automotive electronics problems manifest themselves — but smack on 33 miles on the odometer. Totally problem-free until then, exactly 33 miles after start-up, the big Hemi goes into Limp-Home mode and puts out, in Zeromski’s own words, “a whole lot of trouble codes.”

And, once the engine has had 10 minutes or so to calm itself, the truck would be completely drive-able again, only for, you guessed it, the exact same litany of issues to reappear 33 miles later. Call it the ultimate in range anxiety—you know, like an electric car on steroids.

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Starting out, there’s good news. All the trouble codes come from modules on the same CAN-C network. In other words, all he has to do is check out all the electronic controllers — or, at worst, their wiring — on that circuit and the problem should be quickly remedied. Easy-peasy, thinks Rob The Mechanic.

Except all the computers check out. Ditto all their interconnected wiring. Zeromski even checks out the “star connector” that allows all those modules to talk to one another. Again, nada.

A hint of desperation

The 2019 Ram 1500's 5.7L Hemi V8 with eTorque
The 2019 Ram 1500’s 5.7L Hemi V8 with eTorque Photo by Handout /Ram

Desperation now beginning to rear its ugly head, Zeromski notes this original star connector is connected to another such wiring block so that even more modules can join the conversation. A good diagnostician always starts with the simplest things first, so he quickly disconnects the first block from the second and, presto, the codes all disappear. Problem solved, right? Just check for faulty components on this second circuit and no more endless 33-mile Groundhog Day loops around Dubuque, Iowa.

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Except that, once again, all the computers and wiring checks out. So did this second star connector when he checked its individual ports for resistance. Cue further desperation. On seemingly nothing more than a hunch, he puts the second star connector under a microscope — because, well, don’t all automotive service technicians have a microscope? — and notices some striations on the back of the star connector’s terminals.

On yet another hunch — even Einstein had hunches — Zeromski decides to test the star connector’s capacitor (which filters out the “noise” in circuitry that could confuse the various computers).


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The measurement that started out as 3.6 microfarads — big bonus points for any reader who knew that a farad is when one coulomb of charge changes the potential between the plates of a capacitors by one volt — started climbing the longer he held the test probes against the offending connections.

One $59.53 connection block later, the big Hemi — with an aftermarket ProCharger supercharger, no less — was able to peel rubber for more than 33 miles at a time, Zeromski’s dedication rewarded, albeit after 10 hours of hair-pulling frustration and having to drive around for 33 miles at a shot waiting for the truck to cack out.

A few observations

The first thing that should become obvious from even this short video is how complicated automotive service has become. Not only must one have expansive knowledge of traditional componentry such as pistons, con-rod bearings, and the like, but now you really do need to be a computer diagnostician of the first order.

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2019 Ram 1500 Laramie
2019 Ram 1500 Laramie Photo by FCA

I’ve watched “Why Do We Charge to Diagnose Vehicles” several times now, and the thing that continually strikes me — besides Zeromski’s “I just can’t let something go out the door without knowing what was wrong with it” relentlessness — is that nothing Hugh Laurie feigns doing in medical surgery is any more complicated than what Rob The Mechanic actually did in his diagnosis. To be sure, the stakes of real-life surgery and vehicle repair are hardly comparable. On the other hand, House didn’t have to drive 33 miles every time he wanted to provoke symptoms.

The discussion more important than lauding Zeromski — he’s got more than enough of that already — is that, because we don’t understand how complicated car repair can be, we’re not willing to pay mechanics for their time figuring out what our cars’ problems might be. We’re willing to pay for the cost of the parts afflicted and the time it might take to replace them. But figuring out which part might be at fault? Not so much.

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That’s why so many mechanics have turned into “part replacers.” They have not the know-how for the diagnostics required. And, since they are not being paid to be inquisitive, there’s little incentive to gain that knowledge. Rob got paid a little over a grand for his 10-plus hours of work.  But he made a boatload more money making the video of his twisted path to enlightenment. Not everyone — certainly, not every mechanic — is cut out for YouTube stardom. If you want a “House” on your case, you’re going to have to pay for it.

And Lord help us when cars start running on gigabit ethernet cabling. Hopefully, there’ll be more Robert Zeromskis tending automotive service bays.

David Booth picture

David Booth

David Booth is Driving’s senior writer as well as the producer of’s Driving into the Future panels and Motor Mouth podcasts. Having written about everything from the exact benefits of Diamond Like Coating (DLC) on motorcycle camshafts to why Range Rovers are the best vehicles for those suffering from opiod-induced constipation, Booth leaves no stone unturned in his quest for automotive veritas. Besides his long tenure with Driving, he was the editor in chief of Autovision magazine for 25 years and his stories has been published in motorcycle magazines around the world including the United States, England, Germany and Australia.


Graduating from Queen Elizabeth High School in 1973, Booth moved to from his Northern Quebec home town of Sept-Iles — also home to Montreal Canadiens great, Guy Carbonneau, by the way — to Ottawa to study Mechanical Engineering at Carleton University where he wrote a thesis on the then burgeoning technology of anti-lock brakes for motorcycles and spent time researching the also then burgeoning use of water tunnels for aerodynamic testing.


After three years writing for Cycle Canada magazine and another three working for the then oldest magazine in Canada, Canadian Automotive Trade, Booth, along with current Driving writer, Brian Harper, and then Toronto Star contributor, Alex Law, created an automotive editorial services group that supplied road tests, news and service bulletins to what was then called Southam newspapers. When Southam became Postmedia with its purchase by Conrad Black and the subsequent introduction of the National Post, Booth was asked to start up the then Driver’s Edge section which became, as you might suspect, when Postmedia finally moved into the digital age. In the past 41 tears, Booth has tested well over 500 motorcycles, 1,500 passenger cars and pretty much every significant supercar of the last 30 years. His passion — and, by far, his proudest achievement — however is Motor Mouth, his weekly column that, after some 30 years, remains as incisive and opinionated as ever.


Booth remains an avid sports enthusiast — that should be read fitness freak — whose favourite activities include punching boxing bags until his hands bleed and running ski hills with as little respect for medial meniscus as 65-year-old knees can bear. His underlying passion, however, remains, after all these years, motorcycles. If he’s not in his garage tinkering with his prized 1983 CB1100RC — or resurrecting another one – he’s riding Italy’s famed Stelvio Pass with his beloved — and much-modified — Suzuki V-strom 1000. Booth has been known to accept the occasional mojito from strangers and the apples of his eye are a certain fellow Driving contributor and his son, Matthew, who is Global Vice-President of something but he’s never quite sure what. He welcomes feedback, criticism and suggestions at [email protected]